Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
Cryptosporidiosis is an important cause of gastroenteritis and diarrhea in a variety of animal species, including humans. It is caused by a ubiquitous protozoan of the genus Cryptosporidium. The most common species of Cryptosporidium affecting domestic mammals is Cryptosporidium parvum.
Cryptosporidiosis may be a primary disease, although it is often seen as a secondary disorder in dogs and people with compromised immune systems. Crowding and unsanitary conditions increase the risk of exposure. Young dogs may be more susceptible to infection.
The impact of the disease tends to be minimal in dogs that have a competent immune system. Immunocompromised dogs, however, may develop clinical signs after infection.
What to Watch For
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
Diagnosis of Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
- Fecal examination
- Animal inoculation
- Intestinal biopsy
Treatment of Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
In some cases, no treatment is necessary. For others, treatment may include:
- High fiber diet
- Supportive therapy
Home Care and Prevention
Administer all medications as prescribed. Try to disinfect any contaminated area, although this may be difficult to do. Boil any water collected in the field for drinking and prevent your dog from ingesting feces.
In-Depth Information on Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
Cryptosporidiosis is a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium. The species of the organism that affects mammals most commonly is Cryptosporidium parvum. A number of mammalian species including rodents, calves, dogs, cats and people can develop gastrointestinal tract disease due to infection with the organism. A high prevalence of serum antibodies to the organism in many dogs, suggests that exposure to the parasite is common.
The infective form of the organism is the oocyst, which is spread via fecal contamination of food or drinking water. The organism is very infective. It only takes a few oocysts to cause disease in people.
Cryptosporidiosis may be a primary disease, or it may be a secondary disease in dogs with weakened immune systems. The risk of exposure increases in crowded or unsanitary conditions. In dogs, it is more commonly seen in young animals less than six months old.
Typically, cryptosporidiosis is a self-limiting disease in dogs with competent immune systems; many dogs can be infected without showing clinical signs at all. Others will have mild diarrhea, but recover uneventfully. Even though young dogs are more susceptible to becoming infected, they too may never develop clinical signs. The signs of cryptosporidiosis include acute onset of lethargy, abdominal cramps and profuse watery diarrhea. The illness generally subsides without treatment, although persistent diarrhea and dehydration occasionally develops. The severity of the disease depends on the immune competence of the dog. Immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV/AIDS, may suffer severe diarrhea that never resolves and may even prove fatal.
Diagnosis In-depth of Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
- Fecal examination. Dogs suspected of having cryptosporidiosis should have a fecal sample carefully sent to a laboratory for special staining and examination techniques.
- Serology. Detection of antibodies against the organism identifies dogs that have been exposed to the organism, but it does not necessarily diagnose active infection.
- Animal inoculation. Oocysts may be harvested from an infected stool sample and inoculated orally into neonatal mice, followed by examination of the intestinal tissue of the mice one week later. This test is rarely done.
- Intestinal biopsy. Intestinal biopsy often reveals the organism as well as the damage that the organism may have caused to the intestinal tract.
Therapy In-depth of Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
Although more than 100 drugs have been screened, there are very few drugs available to treat cryptosporidiosis successfully.
- No treatment. Infections in immunocompetent dogs are usually self-limiting, and full recovery often occurs.
- Antibiotics. Many antibiotics have been used in an attempt to treat cryptosporidiosis. Paromomycin, tylosin and azithromycin have all been shown to have reasonable efficacy when treating the disorder.
- High fiber diet. Feeding a high fiber diet in conjunction with antibiotic therapy and supportive care may be beneficial in helping resolve the diarrhea more quickly.
- Supportive therapy. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization and intravenous fluid therapy for several days.
Follow-up Care of Cryptosporidiosis in Dogs
Optimal treatment for your pet requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your dog does not improve rapidly. Administer all prescribed medications as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you experience problems treating your dog.
Infected dogs should be isolated from people who are immunocompromised due to the potential spread of the disease from the dog to people.